How can you make online work for you?

Running an efficient ecommerce service

Logistics, customer service and fulfillment are vital to ecommerce. But they’re hard to get right – especially in the UAE. Here are tips in five key areas for how to succeed.
This advice is aimed directly at SMEs. As a smaller independent online retailer, we are aware that you frequently have to contend with larger, more established operators, so it is important you not only get this right, but look for ways to develop it into competitive advantage.

Deliveries and shipping
The recent extension of street names throughout Abu Dhabi and Dubai, plus the rollout of services such as Makani (My Address) have removed the previous problems consumers faced trying to specify where they lived. Make sure your business runs seamlessly with these.
Even then, research has shown that with consumers able to specify their home delivery time, some 25 – 30 per cent still fail to keep it: costing you money and inconvenience. Providing a range of shipping options the customer can pick and choose is therefore vital. It creates a flexible and tailored service. Consider using unattended delivery using services such as click and collect, especially if you can provide some form of physical presence in key locations. In the UK, train stations have recently become popular for this: workers order online during the day, and pick up on their way home.

Outsourcing logistics
That assumes of course that you want to run your own deliveries. As a small business, outsourcing to a large logistics provider such as Aramex or UPS is often a good bet. They have many years experience, and for a small business without the financial resources, staff numbers or inhouse expertise, outsourcing could well be the most cost effective and efficient solution.

Customer service
Having a strong operations team is key if the different areas of your business are to operate smoothly. As a small business, your resources may be stretched compared to a larger organisation. But making yourself available to the consumer is still vital.
Responding to questions as quickly as possible will differentiate you in terms of delivering excellent customer service. Indeed as a small business, you have the opportunity to be noticeably more personable and human than big corporations.
Consumers recognise and appreciate this kind of service, and will often praise a positive experience via social media or reviews websites. Even if you’re not particularly active on social media channels, it’s likely your customers will be.

In a similar way, maintaining a dialogue throughout the whole ecommerce process is key. Consumers don’t like to be left in the dark. Tell them when you have shipped their order, give their tracking number, confirm how it’s being delivered. These things may seem basic, but neglecting them can be fatal.

Finally, don’t accept poor service on the things you are less able to influence
There may be things about your ecommerce site you aren’t directly responsible for, such as your payment gateway. Don’t accept inferior solutions: it’s important to remember that anything – from the searchability of your website to an awkward payment process – can potentially lose you customers.

Also in this issue: eCommerce comes of age

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